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Washtenaw United: Celebrating Americorps' 25 Years Of Service To The Community

Mar 9, 2020

Former Americorps member Brian Rakovitis and current Americorps member Tien Holmes at the WEMU studio.
Credit David Fair / 89.1 WEMU

This fall, the Americorps program will celebrate its 25th anniversary.  Washtenaw County has a robust Americorps program.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," you'll meet two members who are taking the service work component of the program and building personal and professional growth into something of benefit to the greater community.  WEMU's David Fair welcomes current Americorps member Tien Holmes and Americorps alumnus Brian Rakovitis to talk about the paths they're forging.  


WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


ABOUT THE GUESTS:

Brian Rakovitis

Brian Rakovitis
Credit Americorps

As the manager of financial empowerment initiatives, Brian develops children’s savings account programs throughout the state, aiming to get more low- and moderate-income youth to strive toward post-secondary education, whether it be college, vocational training or other options.  He also helps develop financial stability throughout the state of Michigan and the Midwest, and align policies and best practices around financial stability work.

Brian is an AmeriCorps Alumnus through CEDAM.  He worked in the once active Michigan Foreclosure Task Force and was placed at United Way of Washtenaw County.  After his service in AmeriCorps, Brian stayed on at United Way as a financial empowerment specialist.  There, he focused on economic mobility, managed their VITA tax program and was a part of the mobile financial resource team which provided education, coaching and technical assistance and training to nonprofits who were interested in taking on financial stability work.

Brian received his Bachelor of Arts in political science and his Master of Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University.

Tien Holmes

Tien Holmes
Credit Americorps

Tien is a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Graduate: B.S degree in Public Relations.  She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Co-Founder of Tallahassee-based community service organization KPP (Keeping People Proud).  Tien was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yet raised in Central Florida.  Currently, she is an AmeriCorp member with the United Way of Washtenaw County.

RESOURCES:

Americorps (Michigan)

Americorps (National)

Americorps Alumni Outcome Study

UWWC STATEMENT:

Americorps and National Service programs are critically important for many nonprofit organizations in Washtenaw County.  You may not even realize how many Americorps members serve in Washtenaw County, as they are woven into the fabric of the organizations where they serve alongside staff, providing leadership and stability to crucial programs, while gaining vital skills and work experience.

Americorps members have had a significant impact on United Way of Washtenaw County and those that we serve.  We engaged our first Americorps member, Brian Rakovitis, in 2015 to lead a small tax prep assistance program called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance).  The program (whose sustainability was uncertain operating outside of an established organization) prepared 318 tax returns that year.  Now the program serves over 1200 people annually, growth that never would have been achieved without Americorps members building the foundation and capacity to expand and improve this program throughout the years.

Another Americorps member, Marshall Averill, helped us conceptualize and pilot our Financial Empowerment program during his time as an Americorps member.  After his year of service, he continued with us as staff, becoming certified as a financial coach and helping to build this program into what it is today.

All of our Americorps members have been a transformative force for United Way of Washtenaw County.  By building more community relationships, establishing structures and procedures, bringing innovations to our operations all in the service of helping more folks in our community that need it.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu